If you thought the WM Phoenix Open was a big deal before, you ain’t seen nothing yet in 2023.
Not only is this event a newly-minted designated event by the PGA Tour, which ensures almost all the top stars will be in the field, but the Super Bowl will also be held in Glendale this same weekend.
That’s only about a 30-mile drive between the two if you’re lucky enough to toggle between both big-time events.
Some big names have eschewed playing the WM Phoenix Open in the past due to the slew of other top events on the West Coast Swing, as well as avoiding the spotlight of tens of thousands of fans hounding you on the famed par-3 16th hole.
Not to mention big money events on the DP World Tour this time of year.
That’s not the case anymore.
Eight of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking are at TPC Scottsdale, as well as twenty-two of the top 25.
The field is set at 132 players competing at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course and seeking to make the 36-hole cut of top-65 players and ties.
TPC Scottsdale is a desert course featuring splashes of lush fairways and greens clashing against the brown desert surrounds.
TPC Scottsdale is a course where players can take it pretty low, but its risk-reward factor can also lead to some high numbers.
That’s particularly the case during the closing stretch with water coming into play on the par-5 15th, the famed par-3 16th, the driveable par-4 17th, and the closing par-4 18th.
Bombers do have an advantage at the WM Phoenix Open.
There’s not a ton of trouble off the tee unless you get stifled behind a cactus or other native areas. Water comes into play off the tee most notably on the 17th and on seven holes altogether.
The greens are generally not too fiery, but hitting proper approach shots to the right tiers is key.
Stats to keep an eye on this week include strokes gained approach, approach proximity from 150-175 yards, and par-5 scoring. It’s essential to take advantage of the par-5s, play the difficult holes around even par and finish the round strong on easy chances at 16 and 17.
The weather forecast for the week is expectedly dry with temperatures in the high 40s to low to upper 70s Fahrenheit. It could be cooler and breezier on the weekend, but expect a lot of low numbers Thursday and Friday.
Let the party begin. Here are this week’s top 10 power rankings:
I don’t care that Tony Finau has missed five of seven cuts at the WM Phoenix Open. I’m not giving up on him!
We’ve seen him find success at TPC Scottsdale, finishing T-22nd (72-68-70-67) in his debut in 2015. Finau nearly won in 2020, finishing in second place at 17-under (69-66-62-70) and losing to Webb Simpson in a playoff.
"“I guess it’s just golf. I can’t wrap my finger around it, I like the place, I like the energy that this place brings, and I just haven’t performed very well here in the past,” Finau was transcribed by ASAP Sports in 2020. “But I knew I could change that at any year, any given year, and so far this year I have.”"
He’d like that final round back a few years ago, but he’s proven to be a better closer since then.
Four of Finau’s five career PGA Tour victories have come since 2021. He was thrice a winner last year, and as recent as November at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
While he’s yet to win in 2023, the pride of Utah has still looked sharp. Finau took T-7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, T-16th at The American Express, and T-9th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 33-year-old has the skill set to play well here. He can’t bomb it on every hole, but there are opportunities to let his power shine.
He’s also an exquisite iron player, as evidenced by ranking 12th on the PGA Tour last season in strokes gained approach (.659). He was also fifth in greens in regulation (71.25%) and fourth in proximity from 175-200 yards (29’6”).
The putter is his weakness. Fortunately, TPC Scottsdale’s greens tend to run fairly pure and are far from the most challenging he’ll see this season.